Year 2001 No. 32, February 20, 2001
Increase in Private Sector Involvement in NHS Further Jeopardises the Future of Health Care for Society:
Workers' Daily Internet Edition : Article Index :
Increase in Private Sector Involvement in NHS Further
Jeopardises the Future of Health Care for Society:
Join in the Fight for the Political Renewal of Society as the Surest Way to Guarantee the Future of the Health Service!
Successful Meeting of CILRECO in Paris
Intervention of Chris Coleman, National Spokesperson of RCPB(ML), at CILRECO Meeting
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Increase in Private Sector Involvement in NHS Further Jeopardises the Future of Health Care for Society:
Statement of the Workers' Weekly Health Group on NHS Concordat, February 20, 2001
It is reported that the number of NHS patients being treated by private hospitals has tripled in just over three months since Health Secretary Alan Milburn signed the Concordat with the private sector on October 31, 2000.
Last year the NHS spent £1.25 billion on healthcare from the private sector. It is reported that it could reach £4 billion this year. BUPA, the second-largest group with 36 hospitals and nearly 2,000 private beds, disclosed that it treated 1,373 NHS patients in the last quarter of last year compared with 432 the year before. BMI Healthcare, the largest group, with 46 private hospitals and 2,400 beds, confirmed that its income from the NHS was 3½ times higher in the same period. Richard Jones, the operations manager of BUPA, was reported as saying that the change in relations between the private sector and the NHS was more significant than the early figures. January saw the highest-ever number of NHS patients treated by BUPA in a single month 780 and bookings indicated that February and March would be higher still. Mr Jones said: "We have been working with the NHS for some time but the Concordat has broadened the scope of the work we are doing. The number of contacts we have had with NHS authorities has increased dramatically. Whereas previously we found only some NHS trusts were regularly sending us work, now there is a much more general willingness to talk to the private sector."
The government claims that it is using the private sector to bring down waiting lists for operations, intensive care and rehabilitation for the elderly. It dismisses its critics by saying that it is just an innovative way of treating patients that cannot be treated by the NHS. But the Concordat with the private sector has to be seen in the context of the deliberate reduction of NHS beds and lack of direct investment in NHS facilities.
The government has already admitted that there has been 20 years of lack of investment in the NHS, but this is now the justification for it to increasingly find ways of turning the NHS into a source of profits for these companies. Not only this, the focus of the government is to build on this development by broadening the scope of the Concordat as another way of increasingly involving the private sector in the NHS, just as it is doing with trying to broaden the scope of the Private Finance Initiative to increasingly give more and more control to the private sector.
With its NHS Plan the government is moving to consolidate new arrangements with the financial oligarchy in the health service. The NHS Plan also envisages that £7 billion of capital investment will be provided under PFI by 2010. Under these arrangements, the financial oligarchy not only gets the opportunity of making the maximum profit, but will increasingly be the actual ones who plan directly how the health service will be run.
Every part of the plan is permeated by government relinquishing its responsibility for the NHS and reducing itself to that of partner with the private sector and by expanding the voluntary sector. Tony Blair's "Third Way" for the NHS, his call of "opportunity and responsibility" as applied to the NHS, is a call for these companies to take the opportunity to make maximum capitalist profits. The private sector will more and more consume the resources of the NHS whilst for the rest of the health workers and people in the community, they are increasingly called on to take up their "responsibility" to care for the sick and the elderly under increasingly difficult circumstances and with dwindling resources. The Concordat is a further example of this trend.
The opposition to the governments programme must be centred around safeguarding the future of the NHS by developing a pro-social agenda and programme. Working for the political renewal of the whole society is the surest way that the provision of health care for all without discrimination can be guaranteed.
The annual meeting of the enlarged presidency of the International Liaison Committee for Reunification and Peace in Korea (CILRECO) took place in Paris on February 17. Delegates attended from Algeria, Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Switzerland and Turkey. A delegation had come from the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK). Attending from Britain were Andy Brooks of the New Communist Party, Chris Coleman of RCPB(ML), Dee Legg of the Korea Friendship and Solidarity Campaign (KFSC), Ella Rule of the Society for Friendship with Korea (SFK) and the Socialist Labour Party, and Hugh Stephens of the Institute for Independence Studies.
The meeting was opened by former Algerian Justice Minister Amar Bentoumi. The Secretary General of CILRECO, Guy Dupré, then gave a report of its work and proposals for future work. M. Dupré described the historic summit between the leaders of North and South Korea which took place in June 2000 as a decisive turning point in the process of reunification, an international event of capital importance. He then examined the situation on the Korean peninsula marked by the important changes which took place in 2000. He analysed the Joint North-South Declaration of June 15, 2000. He reported on CILRECOs activities of the past year and presented programme proposals for the year 2001.
The head of the delegation of the DPRK, Kim Yong Wan, gave an important speech. He spoke very highly of the work of CILRECO. He said that the historic summit and Joint Declaration of June 15 last year were a great turning point and had led to the other extraordinary events of 2000. He emphasised the importance of the Joint Declaration having been drafted in terms of independence and peace. He said that reunification was the most urgent task of the Korean nation. He spoke of the efforts in the DPRK to build a prosperous and powerful nation. He said he was sure the programme of CILRECO would give new impetus to the international solidarity movement, thanked it for its work and wished it all success.
Detailed discussion then took place on M. Duprés report and on the programme proposals for 2001, which CILRECO has decided to designate as "The Year of International Solidarity with the Cause of the Independent Reunification of Korea". It was agreed to issue an appeal to political and social movements in the different countries, to progressive international organisations and to governments and international institutions.
The documents of the meeting of the enlarged presidency of CILRECO will be issued in the near future.
I am honoured once again to be attending the meeting of the enlarged Presidency of CILRECO, to meet the delegation from the DPRK and to meet again so many veteran campaigners for Korean reunification. I welcome the report given by Guy Dupré, agree with its summing up and support its proposals.
This has indeed been a year of momentous developments. When we met a year ago, if anybody had said that within a few months the leaders of North and South Korea would have met and signed a Joint Declaration, that Madeleine Albright would have visited the DPRK, certainly if anybody had said that within six or seven months Britain would have established diplomatic relations with the DPRK, I think we would have suggested they were being rather optimistic, to say the least! But all these things have happened. And they are the result primarily of the correct stands and actions taken by the DPRK under the leadership of Kim Jong Il, following the principles laid down by Kim Il Sung. I think we could also say that a contribution has been made to these successes by the work of CILRECO, of the organisations and individuals comprising it, over 25 and more years.
At the same time as acknowledging these momentous advances, however, clearly we must recognise that great difficulties lie ahead on the road of reunification and normalisation. The US troops are still in South Korea, they remain the main obstacle to reunification, and their withdrawal must remain and indeed be strengthened as the major demand.
As regards Britain, even in announcing the establishment of diplomatic relations, which we consider an important step forward of course, the British Foreign Secretary openly stated that Britain would use the opportunity to interfere in the internal affairs of the DPRK under the pretext of "human rights". As if the British government is in a position to lecture anyone on human rights! So great work remains to be done at home and internationally.
In a sense these great advances signal a new beginning for our work in support of reunification but at a higher level. Our Party carries out its own direct work in support of the DPRK and reunification, it participates in the KFSC, and it supports all other initiatives in Britain for reunification of the Korean homeland. And I think the fact that representatives from four or five organisations from Britain are here participating in this meeting augurs well for future co-operation in this important cause.
We wish all the delegates success in their work in their different countries and we will do everything we can to strengthen the great work which CILRECO has done and is doing.
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